Tyler, The Creator is almost as talented as he is controversial. As the leader of collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, he is heavily involved in producing, designing and promoting for everyone, including Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and Hodgy Beats. In 2010, the Los Angeles native self-produced and released his debut Bastard, but it was 2011’s Goblin that garnered him significant attention. All of his albums are structured as sessions with his therapist and Wolf continues this formula, discussing deeper issues than his previous releases, while taking place at fictional Camp Flog Gnaw.
The title track brings us into Tyler’s conflicted mind: An ironically soft piano melody overlaid with chimes hints at a new sense of maturity before Tyler pulls the rug out, singing “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck him, fuck everything else that I can’t see, I know, fuck you I hate you so fuckin much, I know you think I’m crazy cause I think you’re a fucking fag.” At the end of the song, a dialogue introduces us to a new therapist, Sam, and his old one, Dr. TC.
“Jamba” displays Tyler’s characteristic lo-fi production style and heavy reliance on simple synth melodies. Even so, as the first real song on the album, it is much more musically-inclined than Goblin’s dissonant “Yonkers.” Hodgy Beats delivers the song’s particularly good second verse. Hodgy pulls the plug on the song before humorously criticizing Tyler for rapping about marijuana while he is actually straight-edge.
More mature songs like “Answer” distance Wolf from Goblin and Bastard. Through the metaphor of his phone calls being unanswered, Tyler raps about his communication issues — how he has never met his father and his grandmother’s recent death. It’s encouraging to see that he can musically express himself without using too many racial and sexual epithets.
Other highlights include the accessible lead single “Domo23,” modern rap parody “Trashwang,” sentimental closer “Lone” and “Treehome95,” featuring Coco O. and Erykah Badu.
Wolf’s lyrics are both deeper and more immature at the same time, showing an attempt to reconcile his older and newer subject matter. Tyler delves into his father’s absence and troubles with women, but his newfound success leads to a lot of superficial bragging. The album is full of avant-garde beats and backhanded hilarity aimed at critics. No one is spared in Tyler’s seemingly inevitable climb to the top and Wolf proves that he is only getting better.
Featuring four UT students, In The Works won the My Band Rocks Fox Austin contest in 2012 and are finally releasing their debut EP, Ever Upward. The soft rock five-piece demonstrates proficient musical talent with complex melodies, sentimental lyrics and technical guitar solos. Every song has a distinct feel, and as a whole, the EP is promising for a relatively new band.
California indie band Cold War Kids has made a name for itself as hardworking up-and-comers. They’ve released numerous EPsand Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is their fourth full-length studio album. They opt for a slight techno feel, resulting in an interesting mix with their indie rock, that sounds more contrived than artistic. Frontman Nathan Willet’s vocals prove indispensable again, but the album breaks little new ground as a whole.
Boston emo band Transit returns with a revised musical plan, shedding almost all aspects of their former punk style by trading their power chords for arpeggiated melodies, while maintaining an upbeat tempo. After 2010’s Listen & Forgive, this album is a huge letdown. Their transition is impressive, but a lot of the kinks have yet to be worked out.